“Bathgate no more, Linwood no more, Methil no more, Irvine no more.”

The Proclaimers’ take down of Thatcher’s cruel policies on working class Scots in Letter From America shocked me. It sounds ridiculous to admit now, but back then it wasn’t the injustice that provoked my ire – it was the fact they sung with such strong Scottish accents, thick enough to stand a spurtle in a plate of porridge.

Why did the “cringe” grip me when hearing my own accent? The answer is simple – I didn’t think it was cool, mainly because I wasn’t used to hearing it so upfront and in your face on prime time TV. Scots accents have always existed on the box, but I wasn’t accustomed to them being on Top of the Pops.

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I now regard The Proclaimers as cultural pioneers and as a nation we’ve grown in self confidence about who we are. Sean Connery’s brogue seemed absent in early interviews, probably because of the need to fit into London society, but it returned in later years. Today, stars such as David Tennant, Peter Capaldi or Kelly Macdonald take pride in their accents. Rightly so.

But when I was growing up Scots accents weren’t the voices of the ruling elite. Years of listening to establishment figures on TV had brainwashed me into thinking upper class people with received pronunciation were more intelligent and better than me. No wonder I suffered from an inferiority complex when I heard The Proclaimers.

So it was a bit of a "what, really?" moment when I read the Times’ report about the Scottish Council of Independent Schools’ decision to publish a “myth buster” for parents. In it the SCIS assured parents “your child is unlikely to pick up a Scottish accent” as if having one was some sort of terrible affliction to be ashamed of.

The SCIS defended its actions as “something potential parents overseas have raised in the past, however light-heartedly”. I can understand why – as a privately-run entity it is looking after its profits, playing to the petty prejudices of its customers.

A 2019 survey by Accent Bias Britain found the UK public has consistently viewed “posher” accents as the most prestigious, while other ethnic or regional dialects received low ratings.

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Indeed, Dr Alexander Baratta from the University of Manchester likened “accentism” to racism. In France last year politicians even voted to make accent bias illegal.

I like the idea in theory, but in practical terms it’s difficult. Unless there is clear proof that the way you speak has held you back, then the subtle sleights and exclusions will continue.

Besides how would you classify a Scottish accent and enshrine it in law? The accent of River City’s Roisin McIntyre is very different from posh Edinburgh.

While laws aimed at tackling sexism, ageism and racism are crucial, should we add accentism, sizeism and uglinessism to the list? Our only hope is that awareness improves and prejudice fades over time. It’s not ideal, but ultimately we all have a role to play by not stereotyping people because of the way they speak. Only then will we value what they have said rather than how they said it.

The simple truth is Scottish accents are incredibly cool. The stronger the better. So be loud, be proud and sing your burr from the rooftops. Altogether now "When you go will send back a letter from America?"


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